When two recent Heisman Trophy candidates and the reigning National Championship starter play quarterback for the same team, things could get ugly.
But at Ohio State, “it’s all positive” between redshirt-senior Braxton Miller, redshirt-sophomore J.T. Barrett and redshirt-junior Cardale Jones, coach Urban Meyer said Tuesday.
“If you watch the three of them, they’re always talking,” Meyer said.
Miller — who has been in the top-10 in Heisman voting twice — was the undisputed starter heading into fall camp in 2014, but he tore the labrum in his throwing shoulder less than two weeks before the season started. That paved the way for Barrett to take the reigns of the OSU offense. After losing to Virginia Tech in his second start, the Wichita Falls, Texas, native led the Buckeyes to 10 straight wins.
But Barrett ended up fracturing his ankle in the regular-season finale against Michigan, forcing him to miss the Buckeyes’ postseason run. Injury and all, he ended up in fifth place in Heisman voting.
Jones replaced Barrett for the Big Ten Championship and the College Football Playoff, and picked up a 3-0 record as he led OSU to a national title.
Now just three practices into spring camp, the trio is locked in an open competition for the starting job next season.
Even though they’re competing every day, Meyer said the players have been supporting each other in practice.
“I just happened to turn around and Braxton and J.T. are talking about football,” Meyer said. “And I saw Braxton walk up and hit Cardale, you know, tap him, ‘Nice job.’ And I just see that, that’s not common.”
While the players are technically all in the race for playing time, only Jones is fully fit. Miller is still recovering from his shoulder surgery while Barrett’s ankle isn’t yet completely healed.
Meyer said OSU’s medical staff has pulled back on Miller, but stressed that was for precautionary reasons. He added that Barrett has been ahead of schedule so far this spring.
“J.T. is doing good, he’s doing more,” Meyer said. “I thought he would be much more limited but he’s getting every mini field and 7-on-7 rep.”
As Barrett and Miller continue the rehabilitation process and Jones continues to grind, Meyer said, in general, everything is positive when it comes to his options at quarterback.
“Talent, quality people, value to the program, investment in the program,” Meyer said. “Check, check, check, check.”
But with all the positivity, there’s just one problem: Only one quarterback takes the field at a time.
“It’s not like receiver where you can put three of them out there,” Meyer said. “That’s the only thing that’s starting to eat away at me a little bit.”
Regardless of who ends up winning the battle, the Buckeyes are set to take the field against Virginia Tech on Sept. 7 in Blacksburg, Va., to kick off the 2015 season.